Imag­ine re­turn­ing to a time when we fear com­mon in­fec­tions and risk our lives from mi­nor surgery. Un­less we im­prove on our short-term so­lu­tions, we will

The New Age (Northern Cape) - - THE THINK SECTION - Ba­her Ka­mal

that will add value to the an­tibi­otic treat­ment arse­nal. “Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies and re­searchers must ur­gently fo­cus on new an­tibi­otics against cer­tain types of ex­tremely se­ri­ous in­fec­tions that can kill pa­tients in a mat­ter of days be­cause we have no line of de­fence,” says Dr Suzanne Hill, di­rec­tor of the Depart­ment of Es­sen­tial Medicines at WHO.

To counter this threat, WHO and the Drugs for Ne­glected Dis­eases Ini­tia­tive set up the Global An­tibi­otic Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Part­ner­ship. On Septem­ber 4, Ger­many, Lux­em­bourg, the Netherlands, South Africa, Switzer­land and the UK with the Well­come Trust, pledged more than ¤56m (R895m) for this work.

“Re­search for TB is se­ri­ously un­der­funded, with only two new an­tibi­otics for treat­ment of drug-re­sis­tant TB hav­ing reached the mar­ket in over 70 years,” Dr Mario Rav­iglione, di­rec­tor of the WHO Global TB Pro­gramme says. “If we are to end TB, more than $800m per year is ur­gently needed to fund re­search for new anti-TB medicines.”

The WHO says an­tibi­otics are medicines used to pre­vent and treat bac­te­rial in­fec­tions.

An­tibi­otic re­sis­tance oc­curs when bac­te­ria change in re­sponse to the use of these medicines. Bac­te­ria, not humans or an­i­mals, be­come an­tibi­otic-re­sis­tant.

These bac­te­ria may in­fect humans and an­i­mals, and the in­fec­tions they cause are harder to treat than those caused by non-re­sis­tant bac­te­ria.

“The world ur­gently needs to change the way it pre­scribes and uses an­tibi­otics. Even if new medicines are de­vel­oped, with­out be­hav­iour change, an­tibi­otic re­sis­tance will re­main a ma­jor threat. Be­hav­iour changes must also in­clude ac­tions to re­duce the spread of in­fec­tions through vac­ci­na­tion, hand wash­ing, prac­tis­ing safe sex, and good food hy­giene.”

Seek advice from a qual­i­fied health­care pro­fes­sional be­fore tak­ing an­tibi­otics, he ad­vises. Ris­ing dan­ger­ously An­tibi­otic re­sis­tance is ris­ing to dan­ger­ously high lev­els in all parts of the world, WHO re­ports, adding that new re­sis­tance mech­a­nisms are emerg­ing and spread­ing glob­ally, threat­en­ing our abil­ity to treat com­mon in­fec­tious dis­eases, while a grow­ing list of in­fec­tions – such as pneu­mo­nia, TB, blood poi­son­ing and gon­or­rhoea – are be­com­ing harder, and some­times im­pos­si­ble, to treat as an­tibi­otics be­come less ef­fec­tive.

Where an­tibi­otics can be bought for hu­man or an­i­mal use with­out a pre­scrip­tion, the emer­gence and spread of re­sis­tance is made worse. Sim­i­larly, in coun­tries with­out stan­dard treat­ment guide­lines, an­tibi­otics are of­ten over-pre­scribed by health work­ers and vet­eri­nar­i­ans and over-used by the pub­lic. With­out ur­gent ac­tion, we are head­ing for a postan­tibi­otic era, in which com­mon in­fec­tions and mi­nor in­juries can once again kill. How to con­trol An­tibi­otic re­sis­tance is ac­cel­er­ated by the mis­use and overuse of an­tibi­otics as well as poor in­fec­tion preven­tion and con­trol. Steps can be taken at all lev­els of so­ci­ety to re­duce the im­pact and limit the spread of re­sis­tance.

Ac­cord­ing to WHO, to pre­vent and con­trol the spread of an­tibi­otic re­sis­tance, in­di­vid­u­als can only use an­tibi­otics when pre­scribed by a cer­ti­fied health pro­fes­sional, never de­mand an­tibi­otics if your health worker says you don’t need them, al­ways fol­low your health worker’s advice when us­ing an­tibi­otics and never share or use left­over an­tibi­otics.

In­di­vid­u­als can also pre­vent in­fec­tions by reg­u­larly wash­ing hands, pre­par­ing food hy­gien­i­cally, avoid­ing close con­tact with sick peo­ple, prac­tis­ing safe sex and keep­ing vac­ci­na­tions up to date.

The theme of this year’s World An­tibi­otic Aware­ness Week (Novem­ber 1319) is Seek advice from a qual­i­fied health­care pro­fes­sional be­fore tak­ing an­tibi­otics – and the WHO says that an­tibi­otics are a pre­cious re­source, so it is im­por­tant to get the right advice be­fore tak­ing them.

“This not only en­sures you and your fam­ily get the best treat­ment, re­spon­si­ble use of an­tibi­otics will also help re­duce the threat of an­tibi­otic re­sis­tance.”

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